By Majesty Robinson, College Adviser at North Duplin High School | April 21, 2017
Reaching students at an early age is a critical move when it comes to ensuring their future academic success. The sooner we reach our students, the better. This is especially true when working with those who will be first-generation college students. Because these students do not have anyone at home, or maybe even elsewhere in their family, that is familiar with how to navigate the college-going process, they often get lost in the shuffle. However, many of them get lost before their senior year. They are lost because they have no plans to attend college and many times have not applied themselves academically even though they may be perfectly capable of doing so. Typically, this is because they have simply never thought of themselves as “college material” since no one in their family has attended and/or graduated. These are the students who need to be reached the most because they have the potential to succeed, but they just need a little assistance in getting there.
Many students, especially those in rural areas, do not understand what it takes to get to college. College preparation is not only about filling out applications, completing the FAFSA, and signing up for the SAT/ACT. College preparation starts long before that with a solid academic performance and building your resume by participating in sports, clubs, and volunteering. These are often things that students do not realize until it is too late. By the time they get to their senior year, it is difficult to build an impressive resume and even more difficult to build an impressive GPA unless you have already done so in grades 9-11. Although school counselors are present to help students with the college-going process, they are often swamped with many other responsibilities of their job, making it impossible to meet with every student one on one to ensure everyone gets what they need. This is where the role of the college adviser becomes so critical because advisers are able to fill in the gaps and reach those students who may not be reached under normal circumstances.
Although one of our main responsibilities is to work individually with seniors to ensure they complete the enrollment process, it is also our responsibility to speak/present at all other grade levels so that they can have access to the information they need in order to get a head start. Having an adviser who can visit 9th-grade classrooms and tell them what they need to start doing NOW in order to be prepared going into senior year can make a huge difference in the lives of these students and what they are able to accomplish during their four years of high school. This is also the first step towards creating or enhancing a school’s college-going culture. The earlier these students learn what it is they need to do, the more likely it is that they will adopt the mindset, the attitude, and the skills that it takes in order to apply, enroll, and complete higher education.